Jacob Kainen (1909-2001) was an American modern artist who had a vast artistic career in both New York and Washington DC. He befriended and worked alongside fellow prolific American painters such as Stuart Davis, Milton Avery and Arshlie Gorky.
During the late 1930s, the fiercely independent and anti-establishment Kainen took a liking to social realist painting. However, his influences from his personal relationships with New York abstract painters as well as concurrent developments in Abstract Expressionism lead Kainen to create highly abstract works in his later career. These abstract works were supplemented by his life long interest and devotion to the abstract and un-naturalistic styles of German Expressionism.
Although based in DC for most of his artistic career, Kainen kept close contact with his New York contacts, always experimenting and challenging New York abstract expressionism. In DC, Kainen began his lengthy and internationally-recognized career as a curator at the Smithsonian Institution. He also developed his scholarly knowledge of art, publishing research on 16th century Mannerism and 18th century Venetian etchings.
Today, Kainen’s works are exhibited at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, among others. He is best remembered for his handling of paint, color, and brush technique as well as his expressive experiments into relationships between light and color.